Saturday, November 24, 2007

Is That a Stuffed Hamster?

How realistic is it that a writer might forge a career relationship with one
editor?

It does happen, and it's a happy thing for everyone when it does. But it's not very frequent.
Now that I’m about to start sending out queries, I want to target those editors who are looking for manuscripts in the varied genres I write in. (Material suitable for their list of course.) Am I dropping the ball here by thinking this way? Should I concentrate solely on the sale of each individual manuscript and not consider this?
Yes. Trying to get your manuscript published is hard enough without trying to find and only submit to editors who might take any genre you ever feel like writing. Find someone to publish something of yours, and count yourself lucky. If you happen to find someone with whom to build a continuing relationship, count yourself very lucky indeed.
When you take on a writer, do you look ahead for future projects from him or
her, or do you just care specifically about the current one?
I want to be sure you understand something—the writers who do have a continuing relationship with a particular editor have it for these reasons; and all of these reasons, not just one or two of them:

1. Luck (and perhaps some networking). If an editor and an author who make a really great team happen to find each other, there's always some serendipity about it. Erect a shrine to the goddess Bibliomachia and hope. (If you want to make offerings, she prefers burned manuscript pages and broken pencils.)

2. Professionalism and similar working styles. Those editors you see at conferences and hear about in the writing community? 99.9% of them are very nice people. Those authors out there hoping to get published? 99.9% of them are very nice people. This does not matter, because being a nice person and being good to work with are about as related as hamsters and salad forks.
You don't care if your editor is the kind of person who steals lawn gnomes and dribbles spaghetti sauce into library books, as long as she helps you make your book better and gets back to you promptly when you email. Your editor doesn't care if you're the kind of person who taxidermies your dead pets and only washes your hair when it starts to itch, as long as you take feedback and respect your due dates. It doesn't matter how much you and your editor like each other personally; if your working styles drive each other nuts, you'd both be much happier with other people.

3. Success. Here's the real catch. Not one of those happy teams you may have heard about is turning out unsuccessful books. If you sell a manuscript to an editor who you do happen to enjoy working with, wonderful. But if that book bombs, her publisher is going to cast a skeptical eye on any other manuscripts from you that she decides to champion. And she knows this, so she's less likely to champion them. It doesn't matter how great you both are to work with or how blessed by the ferocious goddess of books you both happen to be if you aren't creating books that sell.

9 comments:

Julie Prince said...

Thank you. For making me laugh and for making me think...with one post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for stating,"Not everyone gets to stick with one publisher for multiple books." I instantly feel better about my second book being passed on.

From the outside looking in it seemed to me that multiple book deals were the norm with all YA writers except me, but maybe not.

Here's another question: When an author snags a two book deal, does the advance include both books, or just the first book, with another advance being paid for the second?

Editorial Anonymous said...

It should be clear what monies are being paid for the first book, and what for the second. If you got a two-book deal, you would know the 60,000 (eg) was 30,000 per book. Perhaps 20,000 would come to you on signing, then 10,000 upon acceptance of the first book's first draft, 10,000 on the first book's final draft, 10,000 on the second book's first draft, and 10,000 on the second book's final draft.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering my questions!

You know . . .

An editor who steals lawn gnomes and dribbles spaghetti sauce could possibly be a good match for me. I’ll have to Google that and compile a fresh new list.

Seriously though, what you said makes sense. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thanks so much for addressing this. It does seem like all you hear about are the longtime author-editor matches.

What to do, then, if you feel that the editor publishing your first book is not right for other manuscripts? I now suspect that another imprint at the same publishing house may be a better match for subsequent works but feel like it would be a big no-no to approach them. (I hadn't written the other manuscripts when I received the first contract, so didn't anticipate this problem.)

onceburnedtwicecareful said...

One other thing about multiple-book contracts: read them VERY carefully for phrases like 'works shall be jointly accounted,' which means that if one book is a success and the other isn't, the profits from one would be used to pay off the advance of the other. I took this out of a major-house contract several years ago and it saved me a bundle of royalty money.

Anonymous said...

OMG! You are kidding, right?!

This is exactly what horrifies me about signing contracts without an agent. I also have an established illustrator friend who got really burned in a contract. This kind of stuff just freaks me out. Thanks for sharing this!

Kimberly Lynn

ae said...

Thanks, EA. This is the BEST, and perhaps most forthright thread I've read since my birth certificate. I'm not much for sentimentality. I like results (with humanity, humility and humor...of course).

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify . . .

My previous comment was in response to Onceburnedtwicecareful.

Kimberly Lynn